The K.J. Taralseth Company building is a physical reminder of the early commercial development of Warren. After moving from a brick store that was destroyed by fire in 1910, Ralph Taralseth built a new store that reflected the company's success. The new building carried a mixed product line for which the company became known. It also provided space for the professional services and fraternal organizations forming in and around Warren.
On May 31, 1882, Knud J. Taralseth opened a general store in a false-front frame building on Main Street in Warren. Taralseth, an immigrant from Norway, had spent ten years in the United States before arriving in Warren. He worked as a carpenter for railroads in Red Wing and Minneapolis.
Taralseth entered business by purchasing a half interest in a small store in Osakis in 1878. He moved with his family to Warren in 1882 and began a mercantile business.
In 1888 Warren's growing population prompted Taralseth to move. He purchased property on the corner of Main Street and Johnson Avenue and erected the first two-story building in the city. The new brick-veneered building not only accommodated merchandise but also housed the Warren Masonic Lodge and the post office.
In the late 1800s the Taralseth Store offered items such as dry goods, clothing, hats, shoes, and groceries and was organized as a department store. People regarded it as the finest general store on the Great Northern road between Crookston and Winnipeg. By 1904, Taralseth's store had been incorporated as the K. J. Taralseth Company. Taralseth's sons, Ralph and Olaf, served on the board and as managers. One year later, K.J. Taralseth died at the age of fifty-six. It was then that Ralph came forward to lead the family business.
Disaster struck the store on October 24, 1910, when a fire swept through the Taralseth Building. The fire, which began in the basement, destroyed the building and most of the merchandise inside. The financial loss was estimated at $125,000. It was the biggest loss in the history of Warren. Immediately after the fire, the Taralseth family decided to rebuild the store. During the interim, they sold merchandise in several locations throughout Warren.
On October 12, 1911, the new two-story brick Taralseth building opened its doors. The establishment employed a sales team of about fifteen people and offered a variety of adult and children's clothing, groceries, and hardware. In an effort to attract customers and challenge the competition, store managers changed the display windows weekly. Furthermore, the Taralseths relied heavily on advertising through mailings and advertisements in newspapers. The local newspaper Warren Sheaf boasted that the store was the equal of any in the Twin Cities.
The Taralseths' store was not the only entity the building was known for. As one of the largest, most significant buildings of the town, it housed several other businesses and offices. Local officials and businessmen had offices in the building. The Warren Commercial Club and the local Masonic Lodge held suites as well. The building hosted many social events. The Masonic Lodge upstairs held dances for the young people of the area. The holiday season provided special events for children. The basement of the building was converted into a toy emporium during Christmas time. Store employees were known to dress as Santa Claus and distribute treats to the youngsters.
In addition to owning the premier mercantile establishment in Warren, the Taralseths were also active civically. Knud helped establish school districts and served on a board of education. Ralph served as both mayor and fire chief for many years.
In 1938, larger stores began competing with the Taralseth store and sales steadily declined for two decades. In 1959, the Taralseths sold their business. Afterward the building housed apartments and small businesses until it was abandoned in the mid 1970s. In 2001 a rehabilitation project began, and the building was once again converted to apartments with business suites on the lower level. In 2002 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
K.J. Taralseth Company, National Register of Historic Places Nomination File, State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Editor's Note: This nomination file was the main source used in the writing of this article.
In 1911, after nearly three decades of business, the Taralseth Company opens the doors to its new store in Warren.
Knud J. Taralseth is born in Hornindal, Bergen's Stift, Norway on November 2.
Taralseth immigrates to the United States.
On May 31, Taralseth opens a general store in Warren.
Taralseth erects the first two-story building in Warren.
Taralseth dies on October 14. His funeral is reported to be the biggest in the history of Warren. His son Ralph takes over the business.
On October 24 fire destroys the Taralseth building.
On October 12 the new Taralseth store opens for business.
Due to competition from larger stores, the Taralseth store begins losing business.
The Taralseth family sells their department store. The building is converted to apartments.
The K. J. Taralseth building closes.
In August rehabilitation of the building begins. Apartments and business suites are added.
The K. J. Taralseth building is added to the National Register of Historic Places.